Exercise for ASD Kids
At AES we utilise the methodology of Applied Behaviour Analysis as the preferred mode of teaching children with an ASD diagnosis from toddler level through to young adults. ABA is a scientifically validated approach to understanding learning and behaviour. Anything a person can do is called a behaviour, such as, drinking a cup of tea, tying shoelaces talking, exercising, etc. ABA examines the purpose of the behaviour behind these actions and why and where they occur in order to teach new ones, to change the current ones or find a better way to do something.
If for example a child becomes destructive, when they were regularly placed in a situation without any stimulation, ABA would collect data on that environment to determine what might be causing this destructive behaviour. It would then be determined how that situation could be rectified. The theory in this instance would likely be that because the child was suffering from total boredom and so, turned to the destructive behaviour, as a substitute.
A corrective action might be to introduce and teach the child an exercise program that he could use independently to stimulate his body and his mind. This would then negate the need for the child to be destructive because he was fully occupied.
The use of exercise plays a big part in the programs we produce for our child clients, from the one-to-one early intervention programs right through to our social club formats whereby we use a large number of different exercise approaches, for a variety of reasons. Research has shown that exercise can play a pivotal role in managing the behaviour symptoms of Autism, by increasing self-esteem, building focus, resilience and the ability to improve relationships.
While OT skills are paramount for any child’s physical development, it is important to consider our geographical orientation. Living in Australia, sport is an extremely prominent element of school and social life, and participation in sporting endeavors encourages inclusion and the generalization and development of social skills. Community inclusion is a significant element of personal and physical development; therefore it is never too early to start developing these skills.
Knowing all this, AES is now using Exercise Buddy; a fun, interactive fitness based App for Apple and Android. This app allows the user to create a profile, and to create exercise sets tailored to the individual’s skill and ability level. Exercise Buddy uses a unique visual schedule system tailor made for individuals with Autism, and includes peer led instructional video’s and easy-to-use timers to encourage independent exercise and play.
This program was created by David Geslak, or ‘Coach Dave’; a certified Health Fitness specialist and an autism exercise specialist. He developed this program through his passion for fitness and its ability to positively impact the lives of individuals with Autism. Coach Dave uses his ASD students to film the video modeling for the program, with the purpose of offering a real life, peer based teaching for our kids.
One of the integral elements of the Exercise Buddy program is structure and routine. Individuals with ASD can typically struggle with new routines, and often require visual support. Exercise Buddy is a Visual Exercise System, specifically tailored for individuals with this deficit.
This tool breaks down exercises for easy comprehension and visual understanding, and offers the users an eventual opportunity to exercise individually. It is simple, with a start column and a finish column. One at a time, each exercise moves into the finished column once the timer or reps number has been completed (this is an option users can choose). It is straight forward, and easily tailored to feature individual needs.
The program hosts different features including body image, posture, motor coordination, muscular fitness, abdominal strength and cardiovascular fitness.
Body image is a valuable tool for teaching individuals with ASD the names and location of their body parts; a precursor to teaching any physical fitness. Exercise Buddy teaches this through body awareness and body composition, allowing for full and comprehensive lifelong fitness understanding.
Posture goes far beyond sitting up straight, though it is an important tool to enhance learning. Individuals with ASD, especially children, are constantly hardwiring their brain for life through their movements. Correcting and educating children with ASD about their posture greatly improves the child’s health and well-being. Balance and flexibility are incorporated into Exercise Buddy in a simplistic form, namely moving and stretching.
The elements of motor coordination in Exercise Buddy revolve mainly around eye-foot and eye-hand coordination. These tasks require both hemispheres to work together to produce the desired results, and with practice encourage further development of these skills. A key element of motor coordination in kids with ASD is the ability to cross the midline, when an individual can, for example, touch their left hand to their right knee; therefore crossing the midline. The use of both hemispheres is also required in academic tasks, such as reading, therefore practice in an exercise setting can hardwire the brain for these future tasks.
Muscular fitness is an element included in Exercise Buddy that can have a negative stigma surrounding exercise and children. While we are not suggesting children with ASD need to build up muscle mass, muscular fitness alternatively has benefits surrounding sensory integration and proprioception. With the correct form and mechanics, Exercise Buddy safely integrates muscular fitness through weighted equipment such as bean bags and medicine balls.
The ability of the heart to deliver oxygen to vital organs, or cardiovascular fitness, is often judged as the most important element of any fitness regime. In today’s society of video games and iPad’s, enjoyment of exercise through cardiovascular fitness is a common goal for parents and therapists alike. Swimming is an extremely valuable cardio vascular exercise, and especially for children with ASD as it can calm the sensory system.
Exercise Buddy is a revolutionary tool for teaching individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder exercise skills. As an effective teaching tool utilised by AES, we recommend its use to any family who would like to improve their child’s exercise and occupational therapy skills.
If you are interested in joining our next exercise group, please register your expression of interest by contacting us on 9240 5800 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org